UK government invests over £1.1bn in future tech skills training

The UK government has unveiled a significant investment exceeding £1.1 billion to enhance training in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and others.

This initiative, announced by Science Secretary Michelle Donelan at the Maths Summit in London, aims to train thousands across the UK, offering qualifications that could revolutionise sectors including medicine, 6G, and quantum computing.

During her speech at the Science Museum in London on the 12th of March, the Science and Technology Secretary detailed plans to transform the UK’s skills landscape in critical industries, with the goal of establishing the UK as a leader in the global tech workforce. This initiative includes the UK’s largest investment in doctoral training in engineering and physical sciences, with over £1 billion allocated to support over 4,000 students in 65 Centres for Doctoral Training nationwide, from Edinburgh to Bristol. This effort aims to keep the UK’s brightest minds closer to home by offering them opportunities throughout the country, particularly outside the southeast of England.

The programme encompasses a range of disciplines, including personalised surgery innovations at King’s College London and advancements in digital chemistry at the University of Bristol. These efforts are poised to advance critical technologies like engineering biology, semiconductors, quantum technologies, and future telecoms, thus bolstering the UK’s strategic position and economic growth.

Additionally, over £60 million has been allocated towards new quantum skills programmes extending until 2034, reflecting the industry’s demand for skilled professionals in developing next-generation quantum technologies. This includes funding for quantum PhD studentships, early career researchers, and apprenticeships, thereby fostering innovation in drug development, machine learning enhancements, disease diagnosis and treatment, and more.

In line with the Chancellor’s announcement of a £7.4 million AI upskilling fund, small and medium enterprises in the Professional and Business Services sector are encouraged to engage with the upcoming scheme to leverage AI’s potential for economic growth. These initiatives represent the latest steps in the government’s strategy to maximise AI’s contribution to the UK GDP, which could see an increase of up to 10.3% by 2030.

Further measures include the establishment of a £4.5 million medicines manufacturing skills centre of excellence led by the University of Birmingham, the selection of a partner for the Science and Technology Venture Capital Fellowship Programme, and the formation of a Future Telecoms Skills Taskforce. These efforts, along with the proposed National Academy for Maths, demonstrate the government’s commitment to advancing the UK’s position in science and technology.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins highlighted the role of cutting-edge technology in improving NHS efficiency and patient care, while Professor Sheila Rowan of the Quantum Skills Taskforce and Professor Charlotte Deane of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council underscored the importance of these investments in supporting the UK’s quantum sector and research excellence, respectively.